Cuba

Still Stuck on Castro

How the press handled a tyrant's farewell

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In a country where major news developments rarely precipitate anything but deeper misery, Cuba awoke Tuesday to the news that el jefe maximo, Fidel Castro, had formally ceded power to his younger brother Raul. Cuba has grown accustomed to a seemingly endless and ageless set of images of the revolutionary father delivering a stultifying oration on Yanqui this-or-that, reposing in a monogrammed track suit, mumbling incoherently about his days in the Sierra Maestra. But to Cuba watchers and exiles, his official ceding of power was unexpected.

The 81-year-old Castro tendered his resignation in column form, carried in Cuba's national newspaper (there is, excluding a flimsy "youth publication," just one). Lifting language from Lyndon Johnson (one of the many presidents that, the deeply serious pundit is required to mention, he has "outlived"), Fidel declared, "I will neither aspire to nor accept—I repeat, I will neither aspire to nor accept—the positions of President of the State Council and Commander in Chief." Delusional until the end, Castro presumes that his indentured subjects demand eternal revolution, forcing him to repeat that, no, it will be little Raul, 76, who will guide the Cuban people towards a classless and cashless utopia. MSNBC's Chris Matthews apparently believes this too, asking Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), co-sponsor of the monumentally stupid, embargo-expanding Helms-Burton Act, why "Cubans on the island still support the Castro brothers."

The preceding days have demonstrated that information peddled by Castro's legion of academic and celebrity apologists has deeply penetrated the mainstream media consciousness, with credulous reporting sundry revolutionary "successes" of the regime: not so good on free speech, but oh-so-enviable on health care and education.

In an email to staffers, with the nudging subject line "Castro guidance," CNN producer Allison Flexner advised reporters to be fair and not to focus solely on the regime's repressiveness. "Please note Fidel did bring social reforms to Cuba," writes Flexner, "namely free education and universal health care, and racial integration in addition to being criticized for oppressing human rights and freedom of speech."

Well, wrong on all three counts, but more on that later. That evening, CNN's ubiquitous foreign correspondent Christiane Amanpour appeared on a panel to hail the end of Castro's rule while managing to mention that he was "a leader in many things such as education, health care." Message received, Atlanta!

In Europe, The Guardian's Latin American correspondent Rory Carroll admonished Cuba for its human rights violations while praising "the government's success in offering all its citizens free access to education and healthcare, resulting in western levels of literacy and life expectancy." That's at best a dubious achievement, considering that Cuba is situated in the West. "Compared with other Latin American countries," Carroll gushed, "Cuba is notable for its absence of beggars, violent crime and extreme inequality," because everyone is equally poor. The average monthly salary in Cuba is 330 pesos—about $13.75.

Thirteen measly bucks and there aren't any beggars in Cuba? Well, not really. As one Miami Herald reporter observed in December 2006, "Anyone strolling through Cuba's tourist spots like Old Havana is likely to encounter a number of panhandlers, from the disabled like Avila and the elderly like Cecilia in the Plaza de Armas, to those struggling with mental illness such as Irma Castillo at the Parque Central." The British left-wing magazine The New Internationalist reported, "On the streets of Havana there are two relatively common sights that wouldn't have been seen 20 years ago: cellphones and beggars." (Cell phone use is, naturally, heavily regulated by the government, ensuring that Cuba ranks second to last in a recent United Nations table of cell phones per person. For those scoring at home, only Papua New Guinea ranks lower.)

The British news agency Reuters tells us that Castro came to power by overthrowing "U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista." And Batista was a dictator—one alternately supported, tolerated, and disliked by Washington. As historian Hugh Thomas, author the magisterial book Cuba or the Pursuit of Freedom, wrote, "American assistance to Batista was never explicitly forthcoming." By 1958, a year before Castro's seizure of power, the U.S. had instituted an arms embargo against Batista, and elements within the CIA and State Department were actively agitating for a Castro victory. Indeed, it was the British government that agreed to sell Batista military hardware—15 fighter planes—when the Eisenhower administration refused.

And how does Reuters describe Castro? After 50 years of brutal one-party rule, to apply the appellation "dictator" seems a rather contentious issue: "Vilified by opponents as a totalitarian dictator, Castro is admired in many Third World nations for standing up to the United States and providing free education and health care." And again, we return to education and health care.

The AP, retracing the history of modern Cuba, explains that Castro's "revolutionaries opened 10,000 new schools, erased illiteracy, and built a universal health care system." And what kind of schools, what kind of education system, did they inaugurate? As Georgetown University professor Eusebio Mujal-Leon has observed, "The [rewritten Cuban] Constitution made the furtherance of Marxism-Leninism the purpose of education, and through its Article 38 made the latter a function of the state." What good is universal literacy if one can be arrested for possession of an Orwell book? What good is "free" education if honest academic inquiry is forbidden?

In fairness to fourth-estaters, it wasn't just journalists that cribbed from the party script. The ridiculous Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) was the only American politician to debase himself by issuing a Granma-worthy press release actually praising Castro. This week's events prove, Serrano wrote, "that Castro sees clearly the long-term interests of the Cuban people," including the selfless decision to hand power to his brother, thus saving the Cuban people from the indignity of electoral choice. "I would like to congratulate both Fidel Castro and the Cuban people for this smooth transition of power," continued, "Few leaders, having been on the front lines of history so long, would be able to voluntarily step aside in favor of a new, younger generation." The absurdities of that sentence are too many to catalog, though note that the "younger generation" is represented by Fidel's septuagenarian brother Raul.

Writing in The New Statesman, British parliamentarian John McDonnell, the Right Honorable Gentleman from 1968, offers high praise for Cuban communism and demonstrates a level of credulity not seen since John Reed vacationed in Moscow. But don't mention Moscow, because, as McDonnell bizarrely writes, "unlike Stalin's Russia there have never been any Cuban gulags." What's not to like, he asks, about a country that provides "free prescriptions, free care for the elderly, free university education."

So again, the health and education canard returns. What all of these pols and pundits lazily presume is that if the state of Cuban health care and education have markedly improved on Castro's watch, surely the situation was dire during the final years of the Batista dictatorship.

Well, not exactly. In 1959 Cuba had 128.6 doctors and dentists per 100,000 inhabitants, placing it 22nd globally—that is, ahead of France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Finland. In infant mortality tables, Cuba ranked one of the best in the world, with 5.8 deaths per 100,000 babies, compared to 9.5 per 100,000 in the United States. In 1958 Cuba's adult literacy rate was 80 percent, higher than that of its colonial grandfather in Spain, and the country possessed one of the most highly-regarded university systems in the Western hemisphere.

Cuba improved, as have most countries, on some of these indices in the years since the revolution. As reason Contributing Editor Glenn Garvin points out, "countries like Costa Rica, Panama, and Brazil have posted equal gains in literacy during the same time period without resorting to totalitarian governments." (For more reason coverage over the years on Cuba and Castro, go here.)

This is precisely the point: Punctual trains and spiffy highway networks hardly mitigate the horror of dictatorship. Such "advances," like the illusory gains of the Cuban Revolution, are best achieved through policies that promote economic and political freedom. You would think, almost 20 yeas after the fall of the Berlin Wall, that journalists would understand that.

Michael C. Moynihan is an associate editor of reason.

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  1. As I comment now, there is no link to the article.

    (Hey! I saw him talking about this piece!)

  2. You would think, almost 20 yeas after the fall of the Berlin Wall, journalists would understand that.

    No, I wouldn’t.

  3. Tell us about it, highnumber.
    (tap tap) Anyone home?

  4. Excellent piece!

  5. Very excellent work, Mr. Moynihan.
    You know, it’s very easy to praise the revolution and its leader when you don’t have to live with the revolution and its leader.

  6. Some journalists are probably angling for visas and US Treasury department permission to travel to Cuba so they can do a 2-month investigation on the topless beaches in Varadero.

  7. C’mon folks. Cuba is a socialist paradise on Earth. There are probably less than 200 countries with a better standard of living. You right wing capitalist pigs are all alike.

  8. Few leaders, having been on the front lines of history so long, would be able to voluntarily step aside in favor of a new, younger generation.

    WOW. Just… wow. What a fucking retard.

  9. Great piece. By why did you hold back on his bloody adventures in Africa?

  10. Yep, good article. The only MSM piece I read on this occasion was from the BBC (because it was listed first on Google News) and I was left wondering if they were perhaps talking about some other Castro.

    Castro – and Che – they just have this strange appeal with certain segments of the left (including the sort that go into journalism, apparently) that goes against all logic. I’ve never been able to understand it.

  11. Great piece!

    It might be easier to think of literacy as a tool of indoctrination in this case. Much more efficient for a government to disseminate their propaganda through written material than to have to constantly repeat it verbally.

    So when CNN praises their schools and health care, just translate it as their indoctrination and universal worker-maintenance programs.

  12. I got a free hospital with no medicine and a Spanish translation of Das Kapital and all it cost me were my freedoms!

    Gracias, Fidel!

  13. “Few leaders, having been on the front lines of history so long, would be able to voluntarily step aside in favor of a new, younger generation.”

    Few leaders have been on “the front lines of history” so long that they think their doddering 76 year old brother is the new younger generation. The guy is on death’s doorstep, and if he dies, Cuba just might have to have elections. And just might elect someone other than the young whippersnapper Raul Castro. So more likely Fidel wants to rule even from the grave.

  14. If Castro is in his 80s, shouldn’t allt he journalist who fell in love with him in the 1950s be at death door as well?

    Why does he still get good press?

  15. “Cuba improved, as have most countries, on some of these indices in the years since the revolution. ” Moynihan on Moynihan: Over at Reason, writer M. Moynihan joins the left wing chorus of Castro worship, taking special note that under his revolution that “Cuba improved” on several measures of well being “since the revolution.” Oh Moynihan, you leftish dupe, you Castro booster!

    Boy this is easy stuff!

    But seriously, if we can get past the goofiness. Every press report I heard had plenty of mentions of Cuba’s one party rule, its economic misery, etc. I guess it has to be a Miami late night drunken burning of his likeness before some folks would be willing to relinquish a charge of biased reporting…

    It’s just a fact that Cuba has made some pushes in some forms of health care access and educational access. It’s a fact that lots of people on the island support Castro’s regime. If people note that while, as MM admits, noting Castro’s oppressive policies, they are just doing what reporters are supposed to do, tell what’s going on.

    Sure, it’s a fact that he does not allow elections or opposition parties and uses horrible means to squelch dissent. Interestingly I’ve seen many on H&R say that would not be so bad IF the dictator ruled in a libertarian way on economics. Well, don’t gnash your teeth that many leftist socialists are just as stupid as to wink at Castro’s massive dump on democracy as long as he tends to push some economic policies they like…

  16. At the risk of redundancy:

    Jose Serrano wrote:

    Few leaders, having been on the front lines of history so long, would be able to voluntarily step aside in favor of a new, younger generation.

    Technically, Congressman, when ceding to one’s own brother, you are voluntarily stepping aside in favor of the old, literally identical generation. The only way that the generation being ceded to could be any LESS different would be if he were to cede to his own twin or clone.

  17. It’s easy to see why some Latin American nations would like a douche like Castro and his wicked regime. And to note it does not mean someone is under some bullshit left wing magic or something. It just means trying to honestly see theh world and understand it rather than spouting slogans and working upo easy hit pieces on the right wing bogeyman of the day (Castro, MIchael Moore, Chavez, the British and/or Candadian health care system).

    GO to the CIA World Fact book (the CIA would certainly be the last place to find false flattering stats on Cuba) and compare Cuba in some areas, namely the ones that MM excorciates the press for noting that Cuba has either 1. done well or is 2. admired in some parts of the world, and it’s obvious why this is the case. I’ll compare Cuba to Nicaragua where he has found some prominent supporters:
    Life Expetancy
    Cuba-77
    Nicaragua-70
    Infant Mortality Rate
    Cuba-6
    Nicaragua-27

    Literacy
    Cuba-100
    Nicaragua-67

    If you were a doctor or educator in Nicaragua, you could see why they might find Cuba to be a model worth learning from. Of course, I think they should see that the loss of liberty is way too high a price, but they can always fall back on what Pinochet et al.s supporters say “yeah, but look at that progress in x [whatever economic or political policy you value].”

  18. Useful idiots. That term just never gets old, does it?

  19. What was the name of that NYT idiot who was head-over-heels for Stalin back in the 1930’s?

    -jcr

  20. What the fuck is it about leftists like joe and Mr. Nice Guy where they just have, have, to defend Castro (even if it’s only a little)?

    WTF is wrong with you? What warps your minds so badly that you can actually say with a straight face that Cubans have great healthcare and the 100% literacy is just supergreat as opposed to, say, 90% literacy and not fucking living in a communist dictatorship?

    This is why I can’t take anything you say seriously, because if you actually believe this shit, how demented are you?

  21. What was the name of that NYT idiot who was head-over-heels for Stalin back in the 1930’s?

    Walter Duranty

  22. What was the name of that NYT idiot who was head-over-heels for Stalin back in the 1930’s?

    The editorial board?

    Or maybe you’re thinking of Walter Duranty.

  23. Finally, a writer not enamored by Castro’s so-called universal health-care and education! Since when did spreading Communist propaganda become the job of the American press? (Um, don’t answer that. Where’s McCarthy when you need him?) People who believe that Castro has created a literate, healthy utopia have obviously never visited the island or talked to the people. Walk down the streets of Havana (unaccompanied by the police/cronies) and you’ll see and hear the reality.

    In Cuba last year, I met a man who had to bribe the ambulance driver, the doctor, and medical technicians to treat his brother’s congenital heart defect–a condition that should have been caught when he was little. Even at age 30, his condition was curable, but because of all the red tape and inadequate facilities, he died.

    A woman I met there had the fortune of visiting Germany where saw a friend in the hospital. She was so impressed by the cleanliness of even the hospital’s bathrooms, she photographed them to show her friends in Cuba.

    “Their public bathrooms are cleaner than our hospitals,” she told me with a shudder.

    Later, she dramatically gagged whenever images of Castro appeared on TV. (The only Cubans I met who liked Castro were Communist youth, or those hired to hang out with the tourists.)

    Sure, there is health care and education–but the decent hospitals with medicine and good doctors are reserved for the governmental ruling class. The education system is a machine that churns out doctors and teachers, but the good ones leave the island for better paying jobs in Latin America, and the quality of education is plummeting. Like a poster said above me, literacy just makes indoctrination easier.

    The Cuban government dictates many facets of their lives–their profession, their news, and whether they can leave the country with their whole family (or even leave at all).

    The Department of Control segregates Cubans and tourists. Cubans can’t invite foreigners to stay in their homes (they’re fined $1200 per foreigner if caught). They can’t go into hotels (except maybe on their honeymoon). They can’t even talk to tourists. We witnessed a young man’s arrest for merely guiding us through the streets.

    If this is Utopia, kill me now.

  24. Hey MNG why don’t you compare those same figures to Costa Rica? Thats a Carribean country that has had a functioning, liberal democracy (and capitalist system) For a long time and has similar outcomes to Cuba.

    BUT THEY HAVE A HIGHER GDP THAN CUBA! Well, no shit. Communism tends to make you poorer.

  25. On that note, its worth noting that health outcomes and literacy stop correlating strongly with GDP after a certain point (usually lower middle income). Thats how a lot of Latin American countries have life expectancy figures close to North American/European standards despite being much poorer.

  26. Mr Nice Guy said:
    Sure, it’s a fact that he does not allow elections or opposition parties and uses horrible means to squelch dissent. Interestingly I’ve seen many on H&R say that would not be so bad IF the dictator ruled in a libertarian way on economics.

    Um, can you name some of those H&R folks? Just curious.

  27. I never said a dictatorship would be good.

    I said if I HAD to choose between a Pinochet and a Castro, I’d take a Pinochet.

    I’d also prefer lethal injection to being electrocuted.

  28. Episarich-you make my point for me. Look at my post, I refer to Castro as a douche, as his regime as evil, and refer to him taking a massive dump on democracy in Cuba.

    But because I point out why a nation like Nicaragua may admire Cuba’s achievements post revolution, I’m defending Castro.

    Well, yeah, I guess I’m “defending” him from over the top, hyperventilating attacks that claim too much. What good are such attacks anyway, other than red meat to the faithful, grrrr.

    I can put it this way: why is it when joe or MNG or x points out that an attack on Castro/Chavez/Satan is over the top we are suddenly attacked for “defending” these people. Can’t you hate Castro without going over the top (I do and can)?

    Cesar-I agree, Costa Rica is the model. If a Costa Rican prefered Cuba to his nation I would wonder about his sanity (though I can understand the often found sentiment in nations with service/tourism economies to stick it to those bastards whom puke you have to clean up after they throw up their watered down Tom Collins, even if such sticking meant your GDP per capita might come down).

    Costa Rica btw is hardly a libertarian paradise:

    “Autonomous state agencies enjoy considerable operational independence; they include the telecommunications and electrical power monopoly, the nationalized commercial banks, the state insurance monopoly, and the social security agency. Costa Rica has no military by constitution but maintains domestic police forces for internal security. ”

    Lurker-take a look at the thread on the Democratic Primary last night, or any thread recently concerning Pinochet around these parts. Many say “yeah, he allowed no democracy, but was way better than Allende or Chavez because he stuck to free market principles” of the like. Puke indeed…

  29. Didn’t you say between Pinochet and Chavez? Cause that’s a different story. I’d take current Venezula, where I could vote, run an opposition newspaper, call the U.S., etc., over Pinochet and his one party shoot dissenters nation.

    Choosing between Pinochet and Castro is like choosing between getting kicked by a bull or a male cow.

  30. MNG I never said it was a paradise. I said it was a nation with similar demographics to Cuba with the same life expectancy and literacy AND a wealthier economy.

    But leftists never talk about Costa Rica. They talk about Cuba.

  31. MNG I’d choose Pinochet because I’d probably end up with a better standard of living as long as I kept my mouth shut. I’d have to keep my mouth shut under Chavez too but I’d also be made poorer.

  32. Both Pinochet and Castro were about as bad as it gets regarding personal freedoms and liberties (remember I don’t necessarily think personal, I mean your traditional Bill of Rights stuff).

    Under Pinochet you could be a waiter at the resteraunt that catered to foriegn investors and make more money than the poor cuban guy who doesn’t get enough vitamins and is going blind but can get free check ups and was taught to read…

    They both suck.

  33. MNG, the fact that you point to 100% literacy as some kind of “positive” thing amongst all else is what makes you fucking demented. If you can’t understand that, I can’t help you.

    I’ll try, though: imagine if I said that, oh, say, Mussolini was a fascist, but after all he did make the trains run on time. Would you think I was insane? Because that’s what you sound like when you say “yes he is bad but he does provide 100% literacy!”

  34. Life Expetancy
    Cuba-77
    Nicaragua-70
    Infant Mortality Rate
    Cuba-6
    Nicaragua-27

    Literacy
    Cuba-100
    Nicaragua-67

    Which of those two nations would rather live in, MNG? Those are your only options. Shithole Nicaragua or socialist paradise Cuba?

    Well?

  35. Who are these leftists that always talk about Cuba? Every professor I heard on the news in regards the Castro story often mentioned his one party rule, his sham elections, his illegal detentions…

    Even Michael Moore’s main point was that hey, here is this shithole and it gives its people better access to health care. That and some tomfoolery about the Cuban people themselves not being evil and bad…

  36. For the record, 100% literacy is impossible. If you believe it, you lack basic reasoning skills.

  37. Michael Moore is such a fat-assed tool. Whoever suggested the Cuban people were “evil” or “bad” in this country aside from a few crackpot racists?

    That little hospital he was in was a show hospital, btw. Its not one Cuban citizens use.

  38. Epi-I dunno, I think being able to read is important to quality of life. Yes, I would surely waive the right to make a little more money cleaning up frat boy spring break puke at some resort owned by a rich fat foriegn investor if I got the ability to read from that…

    J sub D-I’d prefer a Scandanavian socialist paradise, but if I had to choose between the two I would pick Nicaragua because unlike Cesar, I value the political freedoms more than I do any free health care of schooling I may get in Cuba (btw-I don’t think said schooling or health care would be high quality, but better than I would get in Nicaragua).

  39. I rounded all the numbers. Cuba’s literacy was 99.8, much like ours was 99.9.

    You think the CIA was lying to make Cuba look great? Now THAT’S demented…

  40. “Would you think I was insane? Because that’s what you sound like when you say “yes he is bad but he does provide 100% literacy!””

    Good start, Episariach, now you have a general principle, let’s apply it neutrally, across the board to all like situated particulars. Like all the people who say “of course Pinochet was bad, but he did great things with inflation.”

    I’m not saying “yes he’s bad but he has 100% literacy” am I? I’m saying he’s bad. And if you think the only reason Latin American nations or leftists like some of his policies, it’s not because of some magic propaganda spell but because Cuba has done some good things with health care and education.

    My position, see above, is that doing good things about health care and education does not make up for his general evilness. But pretending he has not done these things is pointless and silly.

  41. It’s a fact that lots of people on the island support Castro’s regime.

    How on earth do you know that? I guess maybe it depends on the definition of “lots” …

  42. MNG, people like you are really creepy:

    Yes, I would surely waive the right to make a little more money cleaning up frat boy spring break puke at some resort owned by a rich fat foriegn investor if I got the ability to read from that…

    WTF are you talking about? You’d also be giving up your freedom. But you’re talking about cleaning up frat boy puke? Go back to class warrior school, you didn’t finish your education.

  43. MNG Thats not incredibly impressive for that country given its GDP.

    Look at this scatter graph.

    See how life expectancy goes up dramatically at first when GDP rises, and then just flat-lines, so extremely wealthy countries are about the same as lower-middle income countries? Theres a similar result with literacy rate/GDP. I’ll try to post the scatter plot if I can find it.

  44. But pretending he has not done these things is pointless and silly.

    Yes, Hitler was bad, but pretending he didn’t do good things like restore German pride and provide lots of work for people in munitions factories is pointless and silly.

  45. Like all the people who say “of course Pinochet was bad, but he did great things with inflation.”

    I have never said this and never will, so throw that argument against someone who is delusional enough (such as yourself) to praise a dictator for any reason.

  46. I rounded all the numbers. Cuba’s literacy was 99.8, much like ours was 99.9.

    And both of those numbers are fabrications. If you can’t read and comprehend a Nancy Drew novel, you are not literate. Being able to muddle through this is not literacy.

  47. My position, see above, is that doing good things about health care and education does not make up for his general evilness. But pretending he has not done these things is pointless and silly.

    I think what others are trying to say is that it’s more pointless to bring up a mass-murdering tyrant’s debatable improvements in health-care and education than it is to ignore them. Personally, I think it’s quite reasonable to ignore the debatable accomplishments of mass-murdering tyrants.

  48. And both of those numbers are fabrications.

    No shit. I don’t know about Cuba, but I have a hard time believing that the literacy rate in the US is anywhere near 99.9%.

    Sometimes I wonder if the rate’s that high among Hit & Run regulars.

  49. Of course the Cuban government would never fudge the numbers for literacy, life expectancy, infant mortality, etc…

    Anyone who believes that garbage is a complete moron. Cuban hospitals are utterly filthy and have almost no medication on hand. See Babalublog.

    And infant mortality reporting differs greatly from country to country. The OECD cautions against comparing the rate from one country to another. See here:

    While the United States reports every case of infant mortality, many other countries do not. For example, a 2006 artilce in U.S. News & World Report states, “First, it’s shaky ground to compare U.S. infant mortality with reports from other countries. The United States counts all births as live if they show any sign of life, regardless of prematurity or size. This includes what many other countries report as stillbirths… And some countries don’t reliably register babies who die within the first 24 hours of birth. Thus, the United States is sure to report higher infant mortality rates. For this very reason, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which collects the European numbers, warns of head-to-head comparisons by country.” [2]

    …Another challenge to comparability is the practice of counting frail or premature infants who die before the normal due date as miscarriages (spontaneous abortions) or those who die during or immediately after childbirth as stillborn. Therefore, the quality of a country’s documentation of perinatal mortality can matter greatly to the accuracy of its infant mortality statistics. This point is reinforced by the demographer Ansley Coale, who finds dubiously high ratios of reported stillbirths to infant deaths in Hong Kong and Japan in the first 24 hours after birth, a pattern that is consistent with the high recorded sex ratios at birth in those countries and suggests not only that many female infants who die in the first 24 hours are misreported as stillbirths rather than infant deaths but also that those countries do not follow WHO recommendations for the reporting of live births and infant deaths.[5]

  50. Sometimes I wonder if the rate’s that high among Hit & Run regulars.

    “You talkin’ to me?”

  51. “And if you think the only reason Latin American nations or leftists like some of his policies, it’s not because of some magic propaganda spell but because Cuba has done some good things with health care and education.”

    MNG, that’s the problem right there with your argument: CUBA HAS NOT DONE good things with health care (it sucks by any standards) and any gain made in literacy has been minimal. Why do you chose to ignore American in Cuba’s post? Because a person there in Cuba, who is not Michael Moore, is telling you things suck. I have been to Cuba. It sucks. I have friends from Cuba and they tell me it sucks. I know doctors here in Venezuela, who are from Cuba, and they will secretely admit Cuba sucks.
    What dont you get?

  52. BTW, When I said Cuba sucks, I meant its healthcare system and general living standards. The island itself is beautiful but very poor.

  53. I’d take current Venezula, where I could vote, run an opposition newspaper, call the U.S., etc., over Pinochet and his one party shoot dissenters nation.

    Just hang on. Chavez still has his political police, and opposition figures have a bad habit of showing up shot.

  54. Interesting how the social democrat types have a knee jerk need to defend their hard line brethren when the favor is always returned with contempt and often with a bullet in the gut. It happened in Russia with the Mensheviks, and it occurred in Cuba as well where most of the political prisoners are really soft core leftist.

  55. Moynihan,

    Just as a point of clarification I would note that between 1964 and 1985 Brazil was ruled by a series of military governments.

  56. About ten years ago I knew someone that went on a visit to Cuba– I think it was about ten days. They put him up with a Cuban family and showed him various industries. He came back with a pretty positive appraisal of the country. Basically, his opinion boiled down to ‘the people are poor, but noble and happy’.

    Of course, he was a card-carrying member of the Young Communist League. The trip was paid for by them and all aspects of it were carefully controlled by the Cuban government. I took his experience with an appropriately boulder-sized grain of salt.

    I did ask him, since he felt it was such a great place, why he didn’t consider staying there permanently. He coughed a bit and said he would like to, but it was more important for him to use his status as a US citizen to spread the word to the outside world, raise consciousness and facilitate the upcoming revolution, yada yada yada.

    I haven’t seen him in a long time but understand that he has since dropped all the YCL stuff.

  57. Matt-how would you,or MM, know otherwise? It’s not a free nation, so there could never be a poll that would meet you or I’s criteria, so it can’t be proved. But Castro certainly had popular support at one time and while one would have to take into account the repressive measures the regime take it’s logical to suppose that many people support the regime and like it or it would not exist. After the USSR fell the membership in the Communist and Stalinist parties didn’t fade away did it? Even repressive regimes that last for decades usually have some level of support. Our nation has lost a bit of wagers that Castro did not have some popular support, right?

    The numbers are from the CIA Factbook not the Cuban embassy. Everyone’s aware of the dangers in comparing infant mortality rates, though they are not worthless or incomparable (just like crime rates or purchasing power), and that’s why I included life expectancy.

    Epi-You don’t have enough insight into human nature to see how a service job make one feel, well, servile? And that many nations may not like the raise in the GDP per capita if it comes with the price of having to wait on some Costa Rica Spring Break Frat-a-thon.

    You think the literacy rates, for both nations, are just absolutely worthless? Maybe 99 is not 99, but I bet the relative positions are higher.

    What kills me is that it is not enough for some of you to say “Castro (or whoever) is wicked for his political abuses and crappy human rights record”, no the only thing that satisfies you is that EVERY SINGLE THING that Castro has touched must immediately turn to shit. If there is ANY evidence that SOMETHING the guy did WORKED, then we must immediately denounce it as some left wing bullshit plot….It must be that way, or else we end up praising tyrants.

    WTF?

  58. After the USSR fell the membership in the Communist and Stalinist parties didn’t fade away did it?

    It did except for the elderly and party members who still wanted their free checks.

  59. Cesar-You’re kidding, right? The cult of Stalin was everywhere after the fall. The press over here covered it very well.

    Think about it. Under a repressive regime, some people make out like bandits (say, the CP members). Other’s like the stability, or they hated Batista, or what not (an easy thing to do). It may not be a majority, but few regimes where everyone hates it survive long…Why or how could it?

    Why couldn’t you think that Castro may have done something like increased access to health care or literacy, if even for pr reasons?

  60. The cult of Stalin was everywhere after the fall.

    Thats more authoritarian/Russian nationalist than Communist. Especially since the CPSU leaders didn’t think highly of Stalin from Khruschev forward.

    But yes, some people wish to be enslaved.

  61. If there is ANY evidence that SOMETHING the guy did WORKED, then we must immediately denounce it as some left wing bullshit plot….It must be that way, or else we end up praising tyrants…

    Again, it’s not that it should be denounced, it’s that it should be ignored. High literacy rates? It’s irrelevant when you’re not allowed to choose what you read. Good health care? Besides the very conflicting reports on this, it’s irrelevant as it’s occurring within the confines of a totalitarian dictatorship.

    And there’s nothing in a totalitarian dictatorship that can work in the same way in a free society. It’s not even worth examining. Let’s look at Sweden’s health care system or Finland’s education system if we’re going to try to learn about what works and doesn’t work in a free society.

    And you can’t blame folks for spewing a fair amount of vitriol at a murderous, totalitarian dictator. Of course, some of these same spewers are quick to say, “Yes, but…” when it comes to people like Pinochet, but that’s another thread, I suppose.

  62. Cesar,

    Especially since the CPSU leaders didn’t think highly of Stalin from Khruschev forward.

    Depends on the leader; there were always elements in the Soviet government who would have like to have seen Stalin rehabilitated and they came (if I recall correctly what I’ve read on the subject) close to doing so on at least one occassion.

  63. Mr. Nice Guy,

    What is your point exactly?

  64. Calidore-

    Yes, you could say the Brezhnev krewe was easier on Stalin than Khruschev.

  65. Go back to my first post. MM made the argument that the press coverage of Castro stepping down was “bizarrely fond” because they noted improvements (or let’s say accomplishments) in health care and literacy. My point was that for a reporter to mention these accomplishments is just good reporting, as there is indeed a basis in fact for that (I mane, even the CIA< hardly a fan of Castro, acknowledged this).

    So, you see, no Castro lovers here or there.

    I also added how interesting it was that when someone with collectivist economic leanings excuses a dictator because of the economic change they may enact, that many libertarians have professed being ok with a dictator that fosters markets. Remember it’s me that from the get go thought that yes, any economic policies of a dictator don’t justify his political suppression because political rights are in my world the most important ones…

    As Cesar rightly pointed out above, comparing “which dictator I would rather live under” should, to normal people, be a less than exciting prospect. They are all terrible. Pinochet did not “save” Chile from Allende any more than Castro “saved” Cuba from Batista.

    Having said that, yes I would prefer Venezula today (in spades actually) to Chile under Pinochet, and while it is MUCH closer, I would take Cuba over Pinochet. And what I said is that IF I was a native and the only benefit I had to being in a freer market society was that I got paid more as I served tourists (which is the foundation for many governments that do “quite well” under markets in these areas), then I might think Castro’s preferable…Where do you think the Latin American people’s draw to Castro comes from? They are just crazy or foolish dupes?

  66. Mr Nice Guy:

    It’s a fact that lots of people on the island support Castro’s regime.

    Really? How many times has Castro stood for election?

  67. For the record the film that best encapsulates my opinion of Cuba, Castro and the Revolution is The Lost City by Andy Garcia. Hardly a ringing bunch of praise of any of it…

  68. Malto
    Remember in the Bay of Pigs, when the US was SOOO convinced that every right thinking person must hate Castro because he was plainly evil and bad, and so if a small force landed the people of Cuba would rise up and join them to wipe the Revolution off the face of history…

    How’d that work out?

    Point being, wishing don’t make things better for the Cubans or anyone, though it may make you feel better…

  69. MNG,

    Well, as noted, the accomplishments in both areas may be overblown; and re: health care they may in fact not actually exist.

    Where do you think the Latin American people’s draw to Castro comes from?

    It seems to me that when push comes to shove – that is when people are voting with their feet – that Latin Americans perfer other countries – particularly the U.S. – to Cuba. And, if the constant traffic of people from Cuba to the U.S. is any indication, many Cubans perfer the U.S. to Cuba.

  70. “Nice” Guy:

    Again, how many times has Castro asked the Cuban people if they want him to continue as their leader, by actually running for election?

  71. Malto-Uhhh,none. Castro is a bad man, I agree…

    Has this bad man done things to firm up his support among the Cubans? I should think yes,he’d be a dumbass if not. That is my point: that opposing Castro does not mean you have to undermine EVERY claim that he has done something good.

    Calidore-don’t serve oranges at an apple dinner…Do you deny that Castro’s regime is thought of favorably by a “lot” of Latin Americans?

  72. Mr. Nice Guy,

    I’ve never seen an opinion poll on the matter. However, it does seem that Cuba is not a place which many Latin Americans wish to migrate to.

    Anyway, I’m still not quite sure what your point is.

  73. None. Thanks.

    Hitler did some good things too, to “firm up his support among the Germans”. How’d that work out?

  74. On the issue of Cuba’s improved literacy and healthcare I ask, “By what standard are these improvements?”. I honestly don’t know about the quality of either one. I make the observation that if the quality for either is low to very low, then how difficult would it be to have high percentages in either? From what I’m reading on this thread the qualities of both are low if not very low. So, what are the qualifications for assigning high percentage rates for either of the above?

  75. Tim Washburn

    When Castro took power Cuba had the most advanced standard of living in Latin America (by all measures, literacy, infant mortality etc).

    Fifty years later Cuba has one of the lowest GDP per capita (thank God for Haiti) and on all the other measures a rough parity with many other countries in the region.

    The “Cuban Miracle” is pretty much a myth.

  76. Mr Nice Guy,

    Why would you bother to call yourself a liberal if your sentiments are illiberal at best? Les hit it right on the nose. Liberals and libertarians hold a firm line on matters of civil liberties (the reason Thurgood Marshall is every bit a hero to me as Ludwig Von Mises), but leftest don’t necessarily, and in many cases do not hold the line at all, in matters of civil liberties when they feel liberties undermine a collective cause. The value of health care for a Communist dictatorship is the same value a Rancher may have in maintaining clean hooves for his cattle.

    I know you may protest this, but the fact is you have ignored the examples others have given, offered minor caveats at the same time as you insist on finding value in Castro’s Cuba when there isn’t anything worthy of any social emulation.

    I suspect the value Cuba has for you in is that the manner health care and education in Cuba are reported seems to undermine the free market in the form of an alternative. However, the NYT, for one, has been no more accurate in reporting conditions in modern Cuba as it was in reporting about the healthy, glowing milk maidens of the Ukraine in the 30’s. Pull up issues from the 60’s and you’ll read about the wonderful progress achieved in China as well.

    And so what if there is support for Castro in Latin America? The entire history of Latin America has been one of small gains and huge set backs due to revolutions and juntas. As long as the political game dominates over the development of market infrastructures, Latin Americans will continue to be poor, until she is ideologically spent, like Asia and Africa today, she will be materially spent. In my life time, I have no doubt, I will see Africa surpass South America in wealth, thanks in no small part to the dominance of leftist sentiments in her elites.

    A liberal will say, ‘Fuck you, Castro’, a leftist will say, there are no enemies to the left of me.

  77. MNG has dumped a larger than average load of stupid on this thread.

  78. Maybe in 50 years Hugo Chavez will officially resign as president of Venezuela.

  79. I’ll say this again, and very slowly for those having epilectic fits trying to follow it: I ask again: are the CIA numbers for Cuba’s life expectancy, literacy rates, and infant mortality bullshit? Are they fawning leftist propaganda? From the CIA?

    Well, those very numbers indicate that Cuba has better measures than many of their neighbors.

    So when a reporter,reporting about Castro’s Cuba, notes the repression and such, but then also notes accomplishments in the area of health care and education, they are reporting something that has a basis in fact.

    Which of course undercuts MM’s criticisms of said reporters, and was my point in the first place.

    Issac-how do you figure this rough parity?
    They have a infant mortality rate that is 4 times lower than Nicaragua and El Salvador’s for example (the first two nation’s I looked at). Their literacy rate is much higher than both as well, and there is about a 7-8 year different average life expectantcy…

  80. “A liberal will say, ‘Fuck you, Castro’, a leftist will say, there are no enemies to the left of me.”

    Like when, in my 2:58 post when I said:
    “a douche like Castro and his wicked regime.”

    Or my 2:46 post where I say:
    “many leftist socialists are just as stupid as to wink at Castro’s massive dump on democracy as long as he tends to push some economic policies they like…”

    Please pay attention next time…

  81. MNG,

    From what others have stated, the numbers in those areas were already pretty good prior to the revolution. So the question is, how much has actually been accomplished?

  82. Generally, you don’t have to imprison people on your island and send escorts with your citizens that you allow to travel abroad to make sure they don’t jump ship, if things are great.

  83. Mr. Nice Guy,
    Simply saying you don’t like Castro doesn’t really cut it if you still defend everything about his regime. I’ll say this again, slowly, to you: If things are good in your country, you don’t have to coerce citizens into staying. In fact, if things were going so much better in Cuba than elsewhere, there would be a lot of immigrants trying to get in, rather than a lot of emigrants trying to get out. This actually reminds me of all the times I’ve played “Tropico”.

  84. And a comment on Castro’s “massive dump on democracy”.
    I actually think the majority of Cubans support Castro and his regime. I also think there is a significant minority that hates him and his policies and everything that he has wrought in Cuba. They are the ones trying to get out, or engaging in dissidence. However, in a democracy, it doesn’t matter what the minority thinks, as long as your votes outnumber theirs. I think Castro has stayed in power for fifty years because the majority supports him. I am not saying it’s right (in fact, in other threads I rip democracy for being to open to majority tyranny), just that it’s more democratic than you think.

  85. “Simply saying you don’t like Castro doesn’t really cut it if you still defend everything about his regime.”

    Wow – what a nice, succinct, shamelessly dishonest summary of what MNG has been saying. When did you stop beating your wife, economist?

  86. Well, J2, what would you summarize his comments as? And I don’t beat my wife. Kind of an odd thing to think of, don’t you think? Maybe you beat your wife and you’re projecting onto me (or you’re a man-hating woman who assumes anyone she disagrees with must be a man who beats his wife).

  87. You see, J2, MNG’s main criticism of Castro was that he didn’t let his people vote before he nationalized everything. As I’ve said before however, I will take the individual right not to be killed and have my property seized before the political “right” to vote on it. MNG’s world view is completely screwed up.

  88. “MNG’s world view is completely screwed up.”

    You don’t appear to have a shadow of a clue what MNG’s “world view” is, economist. Just on this thread he’s repeatedly, specifically, and roundly criticized Castro’s many oppressive policies; he’s called him “about as bad as it gets regarding personal freedoms and liberties;” he’s brought up his illegal detentions, abuses of political enemies, and general human rights abuses. Yet you somehow manage to claim (presumably with a straight face) that he’s “defend[ed] everything about his regime” and that “MNG’s main criticism of Castro was that he didn’t let his people vote before he nationalized everything.” You’re too busy soiling yourself in righteous indignation over the suggestion that there might be some small way in which Cuba isn’t a complete hell on earth to bother actually responding to the substance of his comments.

    MNG summed it up well in his 3:38 PM post (and Episiarch helped illustrate the point with his 3:12 PM post that MNG was responding to). To some strange, deluded people, any statement about Castro or Cuba that isn’t 100% negative in every conceivable way is interpreted as an apology for his entire regime.

  89. “Personal liberty” doesn’t mean shit if you don’t have the right to own what you have. When the government has complete, arbitrary control of economic life, and everyone is subjected to forced economic equality, “personal freedom” is a farce, and usually is not even a long-lasting farce (though they’ve kept it up in Europe for about 50 years). And MNG complained mainly that Castro took power and hasn’t had “free” elections since. My point is that even if elections are “free and fair”, they can and often do lead to the same policies that have been in place in Cuba.

  90. Also, given that Cuba has gone from being way ahead of the rest of Latin America to being only somewhat better, in some ways, based on dubious statistics, suggests that Castro’s rule has had an overall deleterious effect. J2, I finally refer you to MNG comment#1, where his main criticism of Castro is his “dump on democracy”. I really don’t understand the faith in democracy that pervades the left (and much of the right). I have seen voters, and I sometimes get scared thinking about the power they have over me through their lackeys in government.

  91. “I hope he has the opportunity to meet Karl Marx very soon” – John McCain, uttering probably the only sane sentence during his entire Presidential bid

  92. The worst part about idiots like joe is not that they defend Cuba whenever they can, rather it is the fact that they believe the bullshit being peddled by the Cuban Government. Does anyone outside of these stupid assholes actually believe that Cuba has the high literacy rates it claims to have? Does anyone really believe its life-expectancy data? Who and the fuck is verifying the bullshit the Cuban government is claiming? Cuba’s independent media? Oh, wait…
    And now we have a couple of assholes actually claiming that Cuba is more democratic than we may think. As gauged by what, free elections? A multi-party political system? For fuck sake, the guy just handed over rule to his brother, yet someone on this site is fucking dumb enough to claim this is a semblance of a democracy. I guess you are too fucking stupid to be ashamed of yourself.
    Castro has stayed in power for fifty years because he is a brutal, thuggish murderer who cows the populace into submission, not because he is a closet democrat, you fucking nitwit.

  93. Who knows, maybe John McCain isn’t so bad after all… Nah!

  94. B,
    Who gives a fuck what these nitwits say?

  95. B,
    I think the problem here is that joe and MNG are coming from a viewpoint that any sort of tyranny is okay as long as it helps “the people”, the definition of which is usually,”the assholes who couldn’t make it themselves, so they take from others”.

  96. economist-I think J2 has actually ably defended my point of view above…

    Look, you don’t like the claims of Cuba’s high literacy rate, or its health care claims. Well, go take it up with the CIA and many other reputable sites that have little reason to falsify this kind of thing in that direction. But a reporter is supposed to be as objective as possible and if they take the CIA as a source over you I just cannot then deduce that they are under the spell of Castro…

    I think “political” rights are superior to what many libertarians call “economic rights” (I probably have more respect for such rights than you imagine though). But I don’t think the problem with Castro is simply that he did not allow the Cuban people to vote before he nationalized (why don’t you prove that with some references to posts above). I think he is bad because he is, well, a dictator. He does not allow opposition, whether it be elections, the existence of opposition parties or NGO’s, opposition press, rights of the accused, rule of law in general.

    They have some good health care and education numbers, what can you say? It doesn’t threaten me and make me find the guy favorable. The reasons I listed are more, more than enough to condemn him to Hell 100 times over. But not in your book, where the bad guys where black hats without a speck of white and the good guys ride shining white steeds…

  97. “I think ‘political rights’ are more important than…’economic rights'”
    And now we see the difference between us. I value my right not to have huge portions of my income seized and my property rights threatened for the latest socialist craze while you value the right to be a whiny twat calling for the latest socialist craze.

  98. Wow, economist, you’re really a complete asshole. I could sum up your position by saying I value my right to actually have my own independent beliefs and morals not dictated by the government, while you value the right to make a buck because you’re too chickenshit to express an opinion that might get you locked up. That would be at least as accurate and fair as the steaming pile of shit you dropped at 8:03 PM.

    I know it’s a radical idea for you, but why don’t you try for some minimal level of intellectual honesty in your future posts?

  99. I think “political” rights are superior to what many libertarians call “economic rights”

    MNG:

    I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about with all of this… you keep claiming things like “Many Libertarians are ok with dictators if they support capitalism” or this quote above with “economic rights”

    I’ve never heard a libertarian or a freedom-loving individual ANYWHERE say that any dictator is ok or that some are better than others because they are slightly more pro-market.

    We base our philosophy primarily on freedom above anything else. It comes almost directly from guys like David Hume who put freedom as a more primary value to even life itself (the thought being that death is preferable to slavery if those are to be your only options… I agree). Furthermore, I’ve never heard any libertarian talk about rights in any context that would separate economic from political. Rights are all based on individual freedom. Economic rights as you seem to want to divide them, come directly from basic social individual rights like freedom of association and the right to own property as defined by various precedents & statutes.

    This is one of the things you don’t seem to get about why everyone is pissed that you’re defending (even in a small way) things that Castro has done… If Cuba is better now than it was before Castro in certain areas – ALL of it. EVERY LAST BIT… is outweighed by the loss of rights. This isn’t just an issue of not being able to trade freely or own your own property – it’s an issue of not being free to make your own decisions in any meaningful form. It’s all interrelated!

    Furthermore… the CIA world factbook is a fine source of data, but you have yet to put it into the context of history. Sure, comparing Cuba to some of the even shittier nations in Central & South America and you find it’s doing “ok”… but you have yet to compare it to nations which have embraced a freer approach, like Costa Rica now – nor have you bothered to compare it to itself 60 years ago! By all the measures you used to defend the “positive” things Castro’s dictatorship has done, Cuba is worse off than it was before he arrived…

    This isn’t about tearing down every last little thing, it’s about your (and others’) tendency
    towards whitewashing Castro’s Cuba. Your argument that it’s good journalism to report on the “good” things is crap if each and every one of those things is out of context. No analogy is even needed to demonstrate the silliness of the whole thing. When you hear reporters talking about Castro and using words like “the Cuban leader” (which I just heard 5 seconds ago as I passed through a news broadcast on TV), you can rest assured that that isn’t accurate journalism. The word choice is important… if you say, as they just did, that Cuba has a “new leader”, both those words have meaning. New means different, which in the strictest usage, Raul fits that definition. Leader, however, means something noble and populist – in other words, a very bad word choice to describe a totalitarian dictator.

    There is absolutely nothing defensible about Fidel Castro, his philosophies, his style of rule, his education system or his hospitals. Nothing.

  100. J2,
    So caring more about working and making a living for oneself than being an obnoxious twat is being “chickenshit”?

  101. “Castro has stayed in power for fifty years because he is a brutal, thuggish murderer who cows the populace into submission, not because he is a closet democrat, you fucking nitwit.”

    Funny, we have at least two presidential candidates who seem to like Castro’s economic policies… and God knows how many people of either party who may secretly wet-dream about cowing the populace into submission.

  102. One of the reasons for all this is that the lazy rush to Wikipedia.

    Note a very recent Wikipedia delete:

    “One should note that not all agree with this positive assessment of Cuban health care system Hirschfeld, Katherine 2006 Health, Politics, and Revolution in Cuba Since 1898 Transaction Publishers. ISBN-10 0765803445 ISBN-13 978-0765803443 ”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Cuba
    Current revision
    The return of El Jigue
    EJ has made a couple of postings here today (which have since been deleted). Has his ban been lifted? GoodDay (talk) 16:57, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
    No, his ban was permanent. However, because he uses an IP address instead of a user account, the IP address was not blocked indefinitely. I have reblocked it for six months, and if he returns when that block expires it will be blocked again. As a banned user, he is not allowed to participate in any way, which is why I reverted his edits. Natalie (talk) 16:59, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
    Just checking. GoodDay (talk) 17:28, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
    Actually, on that note I think I’m going to archive some of this old discussion. Anything that hasn’t has a new comment for several months is probably dead. Natalie (talk) 17:32, 26 February 2008 (UTC

  103. One reason he attracts moderates and independents

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